At one time or another, we’re all called upon to write. Maybe it’s a brief summary to an internal manager. Or maybe it’s a news release to partners or customers. Perhaps it’s a corporate newsletter or press release. Whatever the medium, the writing matters.
Here are 10 simple steps to ensure your writing is readable and efficient:
1. Check the 5 Ws. What, where, when, who and why. Include these and you’ll never forget to report a time, date or location again. (Honestly, how many times have you forgotten to include the time, location or date of an event?)
2. Doublecheck names. It’s really easy to spell it Johnson in one paragraph, and then Johnston several paragraphs later. And, of course, never assume any name is spelled the way you think it is. Ian could be Iain. Smith could by Smyth. Judy could be Judee.
3. Eliminate as many commas as possible and replace with periods. You’ll quickly tighten your writing and sentence lengths. The comma is the sticky glue that bonds together way too many run-on sentences.
4. Eliminate as many lead-in-to-quote paragraphs as possible, to quicken pace. You don’t always need to set up every quote with a lead-in paragraph that recites the name of the person and a brief outline of what they’re about to say.
5. Have you included a ‘What does this mean?’ paragraph? Your readers need it, so they quickly know why they should care about the story.
6. Doublecheck your opening paragraph, after you’re finished writing. Does it still capture what your story is about or is your strongest hook buried in paragraph #16.
7. Be a reader and do a Snooze Test. Read the first three or four paragraphs. Have you given readers enough to want to continue? If you’re calling it boring, imagine what your readers will think.
8. Eliminate Background Bogdown. Too many consecutive paragraphs of background information, all placed too high in your article, can cause a fatal delay in getting to what’s important in your story. There’s critical background and accessory background. Go with what’s critical, and delay the rest for later in the story.
9. Eliminate as many of the following words as possible: the, and, that, they and said. For example, many, many times the word ‘and’ can be repaced with a period.
10. Read it out loud. If you are stumbling over words and struggling to catch your breath, you need to edit and revise. If you don’t, your writing is screaming ‘awkward!’ to whomever attempts to read it.